Your.Rentals CEO, Andrew Martyn has family and friends caught up in war-torn Ukraine and discusses the small and big ways our short-term rentals industry can support the cause.
The devastation caused by the war in Ukraine has sent shock waves around the world, but for some of us, the lamentable situation is much closer to home.
One of those is Andrew Martyn, CEO and founder of Your.Rentals. Andrew’s wife Tanya is Ukrainian and they have three children who have been brought up to value their Ukrainian heritage.
It’s heartbreaking for their family in Sweden, to watch as friends, family and colleagues become caught up in the tragic events unfolding.
Both Andrew and Tanya, are stepping up to support the Ukrainian plight both from a personal perspective and through their respective industry networks.
The war is evidently distressing for you. How are you helping Ukrainian refugees on a personal level?
We have been doing everything we can for the last three weeks to support friends crossing over the border to Poland, supporting those that can’t escape, raising funds, and we are now helping Ukrainian refugees find accommodation and work here in Sweden.
It’s extremely difficult for these people. They are emotionally distressed, they are tired after days on the road and the ultimate question for them is when will I get to return home?
A friend of ours took two days to travel from Kyiv and cross the Polish border: a journey which normally takes seven hours. Once they arrive, they have no idea where to go and what to do next. They need somewhere to stay, food to eat, and headspace to figure out what to do next.
People are booking Airbnb homes in Ukraine. In what other ways has our short-term rental industry reacted to what is unfolding in Ukraine?
The global industry has reacted in an incredibly positive way and, essentially, it has reacted very rapidly, to ensure maximum impact.
We have had to look at it in two ways:
- As a short-term rentals industry, how can we assist the Ukrainian people? What problems can we solve?
- How will the situation in Ukraine impact the industry and what protocols do we need to put in place to soften the impact for hosts and guests?
How can vacation rentals help Ukrainian refugees as an industry?
There are now around two million refugees who have entered EU countries and I expect that figure will only keep growing as corridors are opened up for people to leave the country.
This figure is largely made up of women and children, as men between the ages of 18-60 must stay to help defend Ukraine.
These families are missing their sons, fathers and grandfathers, and they need somewhere to stay, they need support. Of course, there are many NGOs working to shelter refugees, but there is an unprecedented number of people arriving and, as an industry, we have the capability of providing them shelter.
A fantastic initiative set up by Airbnb, and one that we are fully behind and involved in is to open up your Airbnb home to a refugee.
If you are a host situated in a border country, you can open up your property, either for free or at a reduced rate to refugees. They must pre-qualify as a guest, and Airbnb is waiving all fees.
At Your.Rentals we’re reaching out to our property manager and host partners to support this initiative. Inviting them to take part, whether they offer accommodation for a few days or more. It will make a huge difference to so many refugees. Your.Rentals is also waiving fees on these bookings.
We understand from a host perspective, that it’s a balance between wanting to help Ukrainian refugees and running a business that needs to survive in already unstable times.
What we are suggesting is that you offer your accommodation during low and shoulder season, when you might not typically have bookings.
Airbnb is accommodating hosts in every way possible, so you don’t have to accept a booking if you feel there is a chance you’ll receive paid bookings. You’ll receive a request and can approve or deny it. It’s up to you.
How do you see the situation in Ukraine impacting the short-term rentals industry?
The hospitality sector was hit particularly hard through the two-year Covid pandemic, and now the question we’ll be asking ourselves is, what can I expect next?
It’s a hard one to answer, but if you have a property in a destination that heavily relies on Russian tourism, you will experience the heaviest impact and must prepare for a drop in bookings this year.
It’s likely that you won’t welcome Russian guests to your accommodation in 2022. Whether flight sanctions are lifted or not, it’s unlikely that Russian tourists will be travelling outside of Russia this year; unless they are fleeing from the country for political reasons, which we understand is happening.
Hosts need to plan for this scenario.
On the flip side, Russian travellers who have already booked vacation accommodation will be in a dilemma as to whether to cancel their travel plans or not.
If you have Russian bookings in your calendar for 2022, it’s advisable to cancel them for now. It’s safer to not block your Airbnb calendar for a booking that might not happen.
At Your.Rentals we are offering Russian guests a rebooking credit, so if they’ve already made payment for an accommodation booking they can use the credit to rebook your property for a later date.
Financial sanctions have also targeted Russian banks, meaning that cards issued by these banks are no longer accepted, which means that even if Russian guests are able to travel, they will need to find another way to pay for those bookings. Our support team is helping to sort out these issues so that there is minimal impact to our customers.
What other ways can the global hospitality community provide humanitarian support for the Ukraine war?
On a broader scale, there are many ways we can help. Our industry is made up of tens of 1000s of people. And if you add hosts and property managers into the mix, we are millions.
All of us should be taking our own initiative, inspired by industry leaders who have shown no hesitation in stepping up to the challenge, who are actually showing generosity without self-motivation, which is not typical in our revenue-driven industry.
We can all help. We don’t need to rely on the industry to distribute funds. You can make direct contributions to help the humanitarian front in Ukraine. Whether that’s a monetary donation, booking accommodation in Ukraine, sending clothing, food and supplies.
Whatever you decide. Make it relevant. What people need right now is food, shelter and warm clothing. I heard yesterday that refugees are looking for accommodation of “up to 3 months”. They have limited information about how long this may go on and need flexible time to plan their next steps.
How can we help as global citizens?
We’ve all heard about people booking Airbnb accommodation in Ukraine as a way of donating and lending their support to hosts.
This incredible initiative actually started out in a Facebook group for hosts in Salt Lake City and snowballed from there. Over a two-day booking spree this week, 61,000 global citizens booked an Airbnb in Ukraine, which equates to bookings of around 2 million dollars.
Everyday citizens are making this happen. What we do urge is that if you want to book accommodation, make sure you are booking with the host or owner, as it’s been reported that some bookings have gone to large property companies who are not located in Ukraine.
At Your.Rentals we have a dedicated team following up with our Ukrainian hosts and property managers to make sure that they’re getting the donations that are being sent to them.
On another level, we all need to be more aware. Especially as Europeans.
As Europeans, we need to be aware of what is happening. We need to fully understand what the war in Ukraine means for Europe.
This is a battle for freedom and right now we are seeing how quickly it can be taken away.
So, I would say, be aware, learn the facts, talk about what is happening, and if you know a Ukrainian citizen be supportive, listen to them, give them a hug. Above all, be generous.